Tondo Boy Proves Pinoy Business Can Stand Firm
By Cai U. Ordinario , Reporter (Manila Times)

HE GREW up in Tondo among people hungry for food and ideas. But this did not deter Francisco "Jay" Bernardo 3rd from achieving success, which resulted in his inclusion in the most recent Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines awards.

"I was hungry then and I saw people that were hungrier [than us] when I was in Tondo," Bernardo, an Industrial Engineer by profession, told Business Times. "I knew how it was."

This early exposure to poverty at the heart of Manila's poor community helped mold Bernardo's entrepreneurial skills. That and having supportive parents who encouraged him to pursue his business dreams.

"I've always been entrepreneurial since grade school, high school, college, selling T-shirts, selling this, selling that, thinking of new ideas, proposing left and right, different ideas," Bernardo said. "My father told me, 'You're young, go ahead, you have nothing to lose.'"

Indeed, he gained.

With his background tucked behind his ears, Bernardo pioneered a business that manufactures cotton buds supplied to multinational company Johnson & Johnson. He also led the establishment of the seven-company JAD Group of Companies that provides other products and services to corporate giants Kimberly Clarke, Sarah Lee, and Proctor and Gamble.

Today, he even produces a television show, Entrepinoy, and intends to make entrepreneurship modules for high school students and grade schoolers nationwide.

"The situation [in the Philippines] is very prime; we will be in crisis forever, for a long period of time and we are hungry," Bernardo said.

"We are educated; we just need a priming up. I still believe in the Filipino. I still believe the country is full of opportunities. That's why I am still here."

Starting young

As far back as he could remember, Bernardo has always been inclined to business. He was in Grade 2 when he started selling sipa (shuttlecock) to earn extra money for other toys that his meager allowance could not cover.

He said that back then, in order to finance his business, he relied on strategy and a little help from his mother.

"My mother was the one buying the sipa that I was selling," Bernardo said. "I had to be good at the sport so I can make all the sipa go to to the roof and they could buy again from me."

He said he never made the mistake of borrowing money from his father, who was already teaching him the basics of accounting and business math—the first business education he received—even when he was only in grade school.

"My father, being the academician, was teaching me the discipline. 'OK, so if you borrow P1,000, you have to pay this interest. I'll take it out of your allowance,'" Bernardo related. "I couldn't understand him so I never borrowed from him [but] from my mother. That was the better way."

Bernardo believes, however, that his father's attempt to teach him the basics of math helped since "[my father] was trying to teach me the value of money."

Being the eldest of three, he was able to attend good schools. His father, a teacher, was entitled to having his eldest son study for free in whatever educational institution he worked for.

"I got into better schools because my father, it was his privilege, to have the first son free in the schools he was teaching in," he said. "I was lucky, I was blessed."

Blessings extended

Bernardo loved studying. He was always in school even after acquiring an Industrial Engineering degree.

After spending two years in production and two years as an industrial engineer in Johnson and Johnson (J&J), he went back to study, this time at the esteemed Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

He said he pursued Industrial Engineering because he wanted to have a "systematic way of [doing] things." On the other hand, his entrepreneurial inclination led him to AIM.

"I wanted to learn how to handle people and that's through production, and then two years [of] how to handle office work. Then after that, I took my Masters [in Business Administration] at AIM," Bernardo said.

Again he was blessed because his father used to be the dean of AIM. "That's why I was able to go there," he said.

After AIM, he said he felt he was already where he belongs. So he returned to J&J not as an employee anymore but with his own company.

"Entrepreneurship is creating something new and through this new creation of wealth comes new creation of knowledge," Bernardo said.

With that in mind, he went into a business that he is most familiar with. For Bernardo, that was operating a cotton buds manufacturing business.

Cotton buds and old equipment

In 1994, right after earning his MBA, Bernardo, along with several partners, raised P100,000 to P120,000 to put up a business that initially catered to the cotton buds needs of J&J. At first, they were only making the cotton bud sticks but soon, they were making the whole cotton bud.

According to Bernardo, for a manufacturing business, that capital was low. This was because they either purchased old equipment from the company for a lower price or bought them on a "pay when able" basis. In addition, the materials, initially, were provided by J&J.

"We're actually looking for win-win scenarios. If I buy a new item, it will just cost them [a lot]," he explained. "The product will not be competitive and in the end, they will be losing a lot. If I have a low cost of start up, then I could give you a product that's low cost."

The company became, in principle, an outsourced manufacturing company through which Bernardo was able to put up several others for warehousing, packaging, and distribution. Thus, the JAD Group of Companies was born.

"What we did was we broke down a whole company," said Bernardo. "All of the companies are now on their own."

Growing a business not only necessitated good steady production and sales but also healthy employee relations, something that Bernardo never forgot. That's why in 2001, JAD was awarded the Employer of the Year by the Personnel Manager Association of the Philippines, beating several multinationals.

This was all credited to the efforts of JAD management to educate its employees on how to become entrepreneurs themselves. Bernardo believes that by doing this, they are not only helping the business grow but also honing their employees' skills and making them future partners of the company.

Bernardo said human resource people were aghast at how they will do this, saying they would lose people.

"[But] if they leave, more likely they will do business with us, right?" he said. "We encourage entrepreneurship because this is what made us go up in life."

Moving on

In 2002, Bernardo left JAD and moved on to start three more outsourcing companies of his own and a foundation that embodies his views on entrepreneurship advocacy. "I wanted to move on. I wanted to do something else. I was being called to do something else," he said.

Today, because of his strong views on entrepreneurship, Bernardo is involved with Let's Go Philippines Foundation, an organization which seeks to empower the poor into becoming entrepreneurs.

"It's a foundation that's trying to be a catalyst toward pushing entrepreneurship in our country," he said. "We started off actually just doing some teaching entrepreneurship within our own company but later on sabi namin, sayang naman 'yung [we told ourselves, it's a waste of] effort, so we wanted to bring it out."

Believing that entrepreneurship would be the long-term solution to unemployment and eventually, to progress, Bernardo held a series of talks and seminars on entrepreneurship in schools and other institutions.

"We had networking activities on different industries, tawag diyan 'Let's Go Eat' para sa food industry, 'Let's Go Surf' para sa IT industry and all the other industries. We also had 'Let's Go Provincial' and 'Let's Go Global,' which featured different provinces and their entrepreneurship activities," related Bernardo.

Bernardo now also teaches an entrepreneurship course at AIM to further contribute to his vision and advocacy. He has also negotiated with IBC 13 to produce, Entrepinoy, a business show, in the hope of amplifying their cause to more Filipinos. The show, though faced with a lot of competition from soap operas, is still on the air.

"Usapang Business already went off the air and other business talk shows have been going off the air," he said. "Kapag may educational show ka, walang bumibili d'yan, walang mag-a-advertise d'yan."

To supplement this effort, Bernardo will be working on modules for high school students and grade school pupils to teach them early on what entrepreneurship is all about and how they can benefit from it.

"When I was younger, my parents would always say, as most parents would say, 'o saang multinational ka magtatrabaho?' [which multinational will you work for?]" Bernado said.

He added that parents are more proud if the multinational is bigger.

"And if you say, you're going to be an entrepreneur, sasabihin 'naku, kawawa naman 'yung anak ko, walang makuhang trabaho' di ba? [they would say, 'my son's pitiful because he can't land a job']," Bernardo said.

It is this kind of mentality that he wants changed.

"Entrepreneurship is being self-reliant, it is something worth pursuing, [and] it is something where you would really try to see how good you are," Bernardo said.

Proud to be a Tondo Boy
By Wilson Lee Flores (STAR)
At Large : A visit to Tondo
By Rina Jimenez-David (Inquirer)
Tondo Boy Proves Pinoy Business Can Stand Firm
By Cai U. Ordinario (Manila Times)
Manila Times Editorial: Tondo
By Editor-in-Chief (Manila Times)
History of Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish
By Ms. Rose Marie Mendoza

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